Let’s start by learning a new word. “Tamahka” is the Tunica-Biloxi Tribal word for alligator. Tamahka Trails Golf Club is one of the wonderful amenities at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, LA, and believe me, this course has some bite. The course has received numerous accolades including “Top 10 Courses in Louisiana” in 2015 and 2016 by Golf Digest and a three-time host for U.S Open Qualifying. They are also a proud member of Louisiana’s Audubon Golf Trail.
Tamahka Trails was designed by Lakeland, FL native Steve Smyers who took the natural contours of the property and created one of the best daily fee golf courses in Louisiana. There are five sets of tees to choose from, so finding a distance that suits your game shouldn’t be a problem. Juniors, seniors, and ladies can move up to the Gold Tees and play the course from 4,370 yards while low handicappers and masochists can move back to the Black Tees and play from 7,019 yards. Par out here is 71.
Smyers has taken resort golf to a whole new level where brains over brawn will yield the best results. The golf course winds its way through 230 acres of rolling terrain, majestic century-old trees, and a bevy of native wildlife. You’ll encounter strategically placed hazards and traverse creeks that wind their way through the property, all designed to keep you honest. The native grasses not only add to the look and feel of the course, but they can also prove to be a formidable hazard as well. The putting surfaces are incredible, well-undulated, and a joy to putt on.
In late 2020, Tamahka Trails underwent a major renovation including a new set of junior tees that measured around 4,000 yards, seven new Champion tees, upgrades to fairway and cart paths, a new chipping bunker and practice green, and new landscaping throughout the course, clubhouse, and parking lot.
But the biggest changes were made in the bunkers; poor bunkers were the reason Tamahka Trails was unable to attract top amateur tournaments for the past 15 years. The renovation included the conversion to the Better Billy Bunker system which improves drainage and creates longer-lasting sand traps. To do so meant they had to replace all of the drain lines, reshape several bunker complexes to eliminate steep slopes, and replace all of the sand. Tamahka Trails also converted about 40,000 square feet of bunkers to grass and added several small pot bunkers. They have already secured several big-name tournaments: The Louisiana State Women’s Four-Ball Championship, The Gulf States PGA Chapter Championship, the All-Pro Tour Paragon Championship, the Golfweek Amateur Tour, and the Eagle Amateur Tour Inaugural Tournament.
The Tamahka Trails yardage book can be a valuable asset, especially if you’ve never played the course before. With several blind shots and a few doglegs, there’s nothing worse than standing on the tee box and not knowing where the hole goes.
There are several memorable holes, starting with Number 1, a 518-yard, slight dogleg left, par 5 with a very generous fairway. A good drive will give you a chance to get your round off on the right foot. There’s a dense strand of trees down the left side where finding your ball let alone having a shot will be a task. The right side is no picnic either, although the trees are less dense. You may find your ball, don’t expect a clear shot to the green. Play your layup shot out to the right side; the cluster of bunkers you see in front of the green starts about 100 yards out and approach shots from left of them will be blind. The green is large and a lot wider than deep. Regardless of how you played the first hole, stop by the comfort station for an iced mango towel and slushy ice water. They’re very refreshing on a hot summer day.
There are three par 3s on the front side and all are challenging from the White Tees. Move to the back tees and they get even more challenging. Number 2 plays 112 yards from the Whites and is all carry over water. The kidney-shaped green is flanked with a bunker between it and the water. Anything short of the green is probably in the water and anything over the green will find the deep collection area. The green slopes steeply from back right to front left.
From the back tees, Number 6 plays 199 yards from an elevated tee box, so it’s considerably less than the stated yardage. Distance and accuracy are both important because of the three sand and one grass bunkers that guard the multi-tiered green. Watch out for the false front too. Par is a good score here.
If you think the par 3s are getting longer, that’s because they are. Number 8 plays 204 yards from the White Tees. Don’t let the length get to you; well-struck tee shots tend to run onto the green. Two large, deep bunkers guard the green, which is large and has been known to produce a lot of three-putts.
The toughest hole on the entire layout is Number 7, a par 4 that plays 380 yards from the White Tees. Keep your tee shot right of the fairway bunkers; there’s more room over there than meets the eye. The approach shot is semi-blind, although the front of the green is wide open. There’s a lot of contour in this green, so pay attention.
Number 17 is a good risk/reward par 4. From the White Tees, this short dogleg left plays 276 yards. If you can hit a draw, now’s the time. A good line is the tree right of the green. Hit a good drive and catch the downslope and you can easily find the green. Three fairway bunkers guard the right side, waiting for errant tee shots while those that try to cut the dogleg will have a separate set of traps to deal with. If you have any questions about whether or not you can make the green, play a long iron off the tee and leave yourself a manageable pitch shot into a green that slopes left and away from you.
The friendly, knowledgeable staff at Tamahka Trails want your golf experience to be unique and memorable. After your round, head to the Tamahka Grill where they serve some delicious food. I highly recommend the Tamahka Black Oak Smoked Sausage, 1/4 lb. smoked sausage grilled to perfection and served with grilled peppers and onions. You can’t go wrong when you build your own Tamahka Burger, a half-pound burger, served with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a toasted bun with your choice of several toppings.
Once you play it, Tamahka Trails Golf Club is a course you’ll want to come back to again and again. They offer several affordable membership programs for singles, couples, and out-of-towners. They also offer some incredible Stay and Play and Play packages, too. To see that everything that Tamahka Trails Visit their website for more information, www.tamahkatrails.com.